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What is a Car Wrap?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Also known as a mobile billboard, a car wrap is an advertising strategy that involves utilizing the body of a motor vehicle in a manner that is similar to the use of a billboard along a roadway. In many cases, the entire body of the car is covered with advertising, with the exception of the front windows. At one time, cars were wrapped by actually painting the advertising directly on the vehicle. However, magnetized vinyl decals are commonly used today.

While a car wrap can involve covering the entire surface with vehicle graphic wraps, this approach often takes the form of using sections of the car body that can be easily read as the vehicle passes by. The sides of the vehicle are considered prime advertising space, since pedestrians and other drivers can clearly see those sections of the car whether it is coming or going. The hood and trunk areas are next in importance, since advertisements applied to those areas can be viewed from several different angles. A car roof is generally considered the least effective location for advertising, although some businesses choose to utilize this space as well.

The use of advertising vehicle wraps is not limited to cars. Other road vehicles, like buses and large trucks, can also be used to create this form of mobile publicity for different goods and services. However, the popularity of contracting with individuals to display the advertising on their private vehicles has gained in popularity in recent years. This has led to the formation of lucrative car wrap franchises that connect willing car owners with companies interested in using this strategy to generate new business.

Research into the effectiveness of the car wrap as an advertising tool has produced mixed results over the years. Some businesses report significant returns as a direct result from these moving billboards. Others have found car wrap ads to be no more effective than more traditional billboards.

The increased usage of the car wrap strategy has led some jurisdictions to implement legislation that controls the amount of advertising that can appear on any car or truck. In just about every instance, no advertising may be displayed on the front window of the vehicle. Many also prohibit the use of the back window for this purpose, citing safety issues. In situations where decals are allowed on the side windows, they must be perforated, so that the driver can still have a clear view of the traffic flow on either side of the vehicle. There are usually no restrictions on the placement of vinyl decals on the hood, trunk, and sides of the car frame itself.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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